Safeguarding needs to be ‘number one priority’ in Catholic Church

The Catholic Church needs to make child safeguarding a number one priority, the secretary to the sex abuse inquiry has said.

Gaps remain in the Archdiocese of Birmingham’s approach to the matter, despite a series of reviews in the past two decades, a report by the Independent Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse found.

The report highlighted issues around poor record-keeping and a lack of supervision of the safeguarding team.

While some positive changes, including greater emphasis on safeguarding and a more victim-focused approach, were made following reports in 2001 and 2007, concerns remained.

Thursday’s report said: “Despite the passage of time since the publication of the Nolan report, some 17 years have elapsed, there are still significant gaps in the archdiocese’s child safeguarding arrangements.”

The 2018 Social Care Institute for Excellence audit found multiple failings regarding incomplete and substandard records “indicating that little had changed”, the inquiry said.

The panel concluded: “Had this Inquiry not focused upon the Archdiocese of Birmingham, it is doubtful whether the archdiocese would have itself recognised that these problems needed to be resolved.”

Inquiry secretary John O’Brien said: “I think what we would like to see is all members of the Catholic church recognising that now safeguarding needs to be put as a number one priority and some of the things found in that 2018 report need to be implemented as quickly as possible.

“I think there’s much the church could do to ensure safeguarding arrangements are as robust as possible.”

Richard Scorer, specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon who acts for some Catholic victims and survivors at the inquiry described the findings about the current state of safeguarding as “alarming”.

He said: “Today’s report is rightly damning about past scandals in the Archdiocese.

“But the most alarming conclusion is that safeguarding in the Archdiocese of Birmingham is still beset by significant failings.

“This gives the lie to the idea that child protection in the Catholic church has been transformed.

“Major problems still persist, and until we have mandatory reporting and independent oversight of church safeguarding, no child can be considered safe in church institutions”.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Independent Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse.